Charges filed against suspects in Mojave Desert mass killing

Five people arrested and identified as suspects in last week’s brutal killings in the Mojave Desert have been formally charged in San Bernardino County.

The Inland Empire men face charges of murder and robbery related to the massacre, which took place at a remote crossroads about 20 miles northwest of Adelanto.

They have been identified as Toniel Baez-Duarte, 34; Mateo Baez-Duarte, 24; Jose Nicolas Hernandez-Sarabia, 33; Jose Gregorio Hernandez-Sarabia, 34; and Jose Manuel Burgos Parra, 26.

Five bodies were discovered on the evening of Jan. 24, when sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check off Highway 395 after a man called 911 to say he had been shot. Deputies later found that man’s body the following morning, bringing the total number of victims to six.

Mojave Desert Slayings
Mojave Desert Slayings

Some of the bodies had been burned, authorities later confirmed.

On Monday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office announced that five arrests had been made.

Based on the evidence collected so far, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office felt comfortable enough to file murder and robbery charges against all five suspects.

All but Toniel Baez-Duarte face special circumstances for the use of a firearm, possibly indicating that the D.A.’s Office either doesn’t believe he was among the shooters or there is insufficient evidence to draw that conclusion.

Investigators believe the deadly shooting stemmed from a dispute over illegal marijuana. On Monday, Sheriff Shannon Dicus blamed the 2016 passage of Prop 64, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

A release from the D.A.’s Office on Tuesday called the killings the product of the cannabis black market.

Mojave Desert Slayings
Mojave Desert Slayings

“This mass murder, done in a dark secluded desert, clearly illuminates the violence and crime that exists as a direct consequence of illegal marijuana operations,” said District Attorney Jason Anderson. “I commend the Sheriff’s investigative team for their rapid and thorough work and send my condolences to the families of the victims.”

The investigation into the deadly shooting remains ongoing and the D.A.’s Office said it could file new charges as more evidence is collected.

The five suspects are being held without bail and were expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Victorville.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KTLA.